Bulldog Blog

News and Views from the University of Redlands

U of R joins new California Climate Action Corps

Climate Action Corps fellows Helena Candaele, Bryan Miranda, and Jennifer Solis ’21 (left to right) are helping to advance the University’s new urban forest project using Sustainable University of Redlands Farm land. (Photo by Coco McKown ’04, ’10)

The University of Redlands, along with several other organizations, is participating in the State’s latest program to battle the devastating effects of climate change.  This program – California Climate Action Corps – is a key part of California’s comprehensive climate strategy and deploys trained volunteers to support climate action projects in communities across California.

As the only university selected to participate in the program’s inaugural year, the University of Redlands welcomed three Corps fellows — Helena Candaele from Los Angeles, Bryan Miranda Quintana from Long Beach, and Jennifer Solis ’21 from Yucaipa — to campus in late January, following their training as part of the first Corps cohort. While at Redlands, they will help to advance the University’s new urban forest project.

‘Treestock’

“The fellows will be building upon the idea we are calling ‘Treestock,’ which was inspired by a highly successful partnership last year between the University and Esri to give away trees in the community,” said Tony Mueller, director of Community Service Learning (CSL).

The foundation for the Treestock tree farm model was developed by a team of students in Professor Mara Winick’s business consulting class, including the Treestock branding model, nursery partnerships, and identification of indigenous trees that will survive the heat of the Inland Empire, Mueller said.   

The project will build upon that foundation and utilize the existing Sustainable University of Redlands Farm (SURF) land on the main Redlands campus. The fellows will spend the next eight months planning and establishing a nursery to grow trees, mapping the Redlands north side communities, and working with elementary schools and the water conservation district to build a tree canopy in Redlands using saplings from the sustainable tree farm. Mueller said the fellows will work with U of R students and U of R’s Roots and Shoots chapter to distribute them in Redlands communities.

“The shade from trees will provide cooling in our hot summer months and beauty in neighborhoods year-round,” Mueller said, “and the project will engage the fellows, our students, and the community in the efforts of environmental justice and service-learning.”

Enthusiastic fellows

Candaele said it was great to be on the Redlands campus and she couldn’t wait to start growing trees: “I joined because I want to help address issues that climate change has caused in cities, and I am especially interested in urban greening, so this project offered a great opportunity for me.”

U of R is a beautiful campus, Quintana observed, adding he is excited to work on the vision of CSL to educate students and individuals through service: “I can see the Treestock program being adopted by campuses throughout the nation as a way to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.”

Solis, who is finishing up her senior year at U of R, noted the climate corps project excited her because of “the things we will accomplish, like building a greenhouse,” adding that, as a native Spanish speaker, she hoped to help by providing information in English and Spanish for students and volunteers.

As participants in this statewide program, Mueller said the University has the opportunity to create a local program that will not only benefit the adjacent communities, but one that could also become a model across California and perhaps nationally.  In addition to creating a tree farm and teaching on SURF, he said the fellows will create a more robust composting program and recycling program at the University in partnership with Facilities Management. Additionally, the University’s Office of Community Service Learning and Associated Students of the University of Redlands will be the new custodians of the SURF farmhouse off Lugonia Avenue, which will provide restrooms, fresh drinking water, and meeting space for the fellows and the SURF undergraduate staff and volunteers.

Inspiring change

“This project is rooted in public service and civic engagement — key pillars of the University of Redlands’ mission,” Mueller said, “and, through it, we hope to inspire students and the community to take ownership in reversing the harmful effects of climate change in our local neighborhoods and across California.”

In a news release, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he is thankful to the Californians who have recognized the urgency of this moment and joined the inaugural climate corps.

“From fires and smoke to record high temperatures, nearly every Californian has been impacted in some way by climate change,” Newsom said. Even with the bold climate policies our State has enacted, we must – and can – do more at every level. No State has mobilized and organized citizen climate action at scale. California’s Climate Action Corps not only aims to do that but to serve as inspiration for similar action across the country and globe.”

Learn more about Community Service Learning, the Sustainable University of Redlands Farm, and sustainability at the University of Redlands.